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Viewing an open house

Viewing an open house - what to do, what to look forViewing an open house – what do you need to know?

There are 2 broad categories: what you are looking for in the home, yard, and area, and, if it’s an open house, the impression you make on the listing agent.

Of course, sellers want to make their property as attractive to buyers as possible. If they have done their job right, the home will look clean, comfortable, inviting, and well cared for. Take as much time as you need to thoroughly inspect the environment: is the home really in good shape, or has it simply been prettied-up for a quick sale?

Do your best to look at the structure, the finishes, the environment so you can pick up on any “red flags”.

Some things you might want to look for when viewing an open house or having a private tour:

  • View from the street: if there’s a chimney, does it have a rain cap and spark arrestor? Does the yard slope toward or away from the house? Is the driveway cracked or discolored?
  • Close to the house: if the foundation is visible, how does it look? Are the walls flat or do they bulge?
  • Quality of paint: Interior and exterior. Are there spots of cover-up paint visible? Any signs of peeling, cracking, fading, or mildew? Are rooms painted with the proper type of paint?
  • Landscaping: Do the grounds look cared for? Or is there tanbark or wood chip everywhere to cover up weeds and neglect?
  • Roof and gutters: does the roof look uniform, or are some shingles looking curled or cracked?  Do the gutters have stains or gaps?
  • Windows and screens, drapes and carpets: Are these items clean and in good repair? Do windows, screens and drapes open and close as they should? Check for quick cosmetic cover-ups.
  • Cabinets and closets: Are these functional, clean, and in good shape? Empty or sparsely filled storage spaces may look larger than they actually are. Think about the amount of storage you really need, and measure where needed.
  • Appliances and fixtures:  Does the dishwasher have an air gap? Look carefully at the condition. Sometimes ovens are wiped down, but there are serious stains between the panes of glass.
  • General cleanliness: Look at baseboards, ceilings, behind appliances, around the home’s exterior. Will this home require extensive repairs and clean-up, or is it in tip-top condition? Are the bathroom fans clean or full of dust bunnies?
  • Size of rooms: Ask yourself if your lifestyle would be well-accommodated in the home. Which rooms do you use the most? Are the rooms big enough for your needs? Remember to imagine your furniture in place of the existing furniture: sellers will often help rooms look larger by removing items you would normally want or need. Take measurements if you can’t imagine your own things in the space.
  • Layout of home: Is the home’s space well organized? Is it easy to move from room to room? Would the layout of the house support your routines and living habits? If you regularly use a home office, for example, is there an appropriate room situated in the part of the house you prefer to work, close to the other rooms you use often?

Obviously, different people will be concerned about different things when viewing a home: buyers in the market for a fixer-upper won’t have the same needs as a buyer wishing to move in immediately to an immaculate, structurally perfect home. Know what’s important to you in a living environment, and then make sure you look for it while viewing open homes.

Making a good impression when viewing an open house

In a hot seller’s market, which often is the case in Silicon Valley, the listing agent will be watching interested parties carefully to get a read on what they’d be like in escrow. It can be helpful to your cause if you are pleasant, respectful, interested, but not overly demanding of the open house host’s time when you’re viewing an open house.

Think of it a little bit like a courtship: you want to make a good impression now so that you can eventually become the  home owner. Buyers who are difficult, or who walk through a home loudly insulting it during an open house will be undercutting their own goals. (I’ve seen it happen!)

Please also see Open house tips for home buyers on our main blog.


Related reading

Contingencies (on this site)

Checklist for moving (this site)

Buyer tips (on our main site, – LOTS of home buyer articles